IN OUR MIDST
Our Eyes on God
By Kathy Coffey
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see
God— (Matthew 5:8).
Let—s use some comparisons to better understand this Beatitude.
For instance, think of what—s within a seed: the sprout, the
stem, the flower. As the 18th-century Indian poet Ghalib writes:
—Hidden in this image is also its end.— The final act is there
at the beginning; the overture contains all the musical themes;
the process unfolds with a mysterious but natural logic to
a predictable conclusion.
One example comes from the life of Dorothy Day. At the age
of eight, she found a Bible in the home of her non-practicing
Christian parents. As she read it, she felt she —was being
introduced to someone, and I knew almost immediately that
I was discovering God.— Her biographer would later call her
—haunted by God.—
Pushing her baby brother in his carriage through the tenements
of Chicago, she discovered the other major theme of her life:
compassion with the poor. Despite an obstacle course that
might make lesser souls waver, she persisted in establishing
the Catholic Worker movement and its houses of hospitality.
She spent time in jail for her insistence on nonviolence and
remained faithful to unpopular stands. Always her closeness
to Christ was the foundation for her passionate commitments
to justice and peace.
In just such a natural unfolding, the clean of heart will
someday look with deep joy into the face of God. Throughout
their lives, they have cherished this hope and put other things
aside because they have set their sights on God. With their
eyes fixed on what matters most, they forget to fret about
During this process which is often costly, their shining
model is Jesus. At the heart of his being, the core of his
consciousness was —Abba.— The image of his Father brought
him such deep joy that he could endure a difficult life and
a tortured death. When the disciples misunderstood him and
the people hounded him and the religious authorities tormented
him and the Roman soldiers beat him, he held fast to one thing
that sustained him: union with God.
If we want a picture of the —clean of heart,— we need look
no further than Jesus. He had an inner freedom from the self-defensive,
clinging postures that often define us. When we are insecure,
we act out of fear or a sense of scarcity. —Better grab my
slice of the pie,— we reason; —there—s not enough to go around.—
As long as we—re shoring up our shaky egos, we don—t much
care about the others we—re pushing around or ignoring in
But Jesus acts always from the clean center, the sure knowledge
given to the prodigal son: —Everything I have is yours already.—
The good news is, he wants us to share his experience. He
wants us to have the same clean heart and interior serenity
he has. —I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me— (John 17:24).
He gives us to soar; he makes us to shine.
If you meet people who are clean of heart, you—ll recognize
in them the attributes of Jesus. They can shrug off little
assaults on their turf; they don—t get angry about trivia.
Often they have a marvelous, self-deprecating sense of humor.
They can be relaxed about things that don—t matter because
they know precisely what does matter. They are firmly focused
on the pursuit of God—s reign. Serving God is so important
that they toss aside a few things the rest of us clutch: personal
comfort, career success, financial security.
And we who are saddled with obligations and cluttered with
possessions: How do we become clean of heart? We could start
by looking at two modern barometers of commitment: the calendar
and the checkbook. (The trendy will need only their Palm Pilots.)
Where have we placed our time and treasure? Where have we
channeled our energies? Do our gifts serve God—s mission,
creatively transforming the human community?
If our answers waver, our next step is to ask help from a
God who assures: —[A]sk and you will receive; seek and you
will find, knock and the door will be opened to you— (Luke
Kathy Coffey is the author of many books, including
Hidden Women of the Gospels, Experiencing God With Your Children
and God in the Moment: Making Every Day a Prayer. A
retreat and workshop leader, she lives with her husband and
four children in Denver.
Next: Blessed Are the Peacemakers
Who have you met in your lifetime that was
"clean of heart"? Explain.
When you look at your calendar and checkbook,
what would you have to adjust to "clean up" your heart?
to this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."
and Finding the Truth
By Judith Dunlap
Who are the —clean of heart—? For me, such people are committed
to truth and see things as they really are. They know where
they fit in the great scheme of things and live their lives
accordingly. It takes great effort and much searching to
get to this point.
It is difficult to watch our children get there. It can
be pretty scary when our youngsters begin questioning the
truths we hold most sacred.
My youngest son was 14 when he put the question to me:
—Mom, what if there isn—t a God?— After some discussion
about what he was thinking and feeling, I realized he was
just as concerned about the fact that he was questioning
as the question itself. I offered some advice that I—ve
tried to follow myself: —As long as you keep honestly searching
for the truth, you—ll be fine.—
This search for truth can be a lifelong adventure; questioning
and even doubting are often a part of the process. Our job
as parents is to lay a solid faith foundation so our children
feel free to ask their questions, but also know where to
look for answers. We do this from their earliest years by
sharing Scripture and praying with them, by talking about
what we believe and by taking them to church to worship,
learn and serve with their peers and the larger parish.
We cannot argue our children into faith. We cannot make
them believe. We know they were gifted with faith at their
Baptism and we can only trust that if they keep honestly
searching for the truth they will find it. In the end they
will see God, because God is truth.
Ask each family member to think about the following
question. "If you could ask God one question,
what would it be?" Share your questions.
to this month's FAMILY CORNER.
By Frank Frost
Just as baseball is the American game, so The Rookie
is the American-dream story.
In his youth, Jim Morris (Dennis Quaid) had dreams of playing
baseball, dreams thwarted by his father—s untimely military
transfers. His grown-up dreams of pitching in the major
leagues were ended early by an arm injury. Now he—s settled
for being a high school teacher and baseball coach. He has
a loving wife, Lorrie (Rachel Griffiths), and children he
adores, in particular his 8-year-old son, Hunter (Angus
But still Jim dreams, pitching against a chain-link fence
in the dark of night. He—s challenged to pursue these dreams
when he confronts his baseball team after a loss. The reason
they lose, he tells the high schoolers, is because they
quit. They don—t dream of winning. —What about you?— they
retort. Team members make a pact with their coach: If they
win the district championship, he—ll try out again for professional
They win, he tries out and makes it to the majors—where
he pitches for two years. If the movie weren—t based on
a true story, we—d never believe it.
But that—s just the plot, not the movie. This is about
much more than baseball and career ambitions. Baseball is
only one metaphor in the film for pursuing your dreams.
Another is striking it rich by drilling for oil. And both
are placed in the realm of legend at the movie—s start.
Oil workers hopelessly drilling for oil are reduced to playing
baseball to pass the time, until some nuns appear to strew
the site with yellow rose petals in honor of St. Rita, patron
of impossible dreams. (It—s nice to have the American dream
associated with the Catholic dream for a change.)
The pursuit of dreams is seen in several strands: through
10 teenagers battling great odds to win a baseball championship,
through Jim—s relationship with his wife and his father,
and above all in the eyes of Jim—s young son. Over and over
again the camera shows us Jim through Hunter—s eyes, reacting
to his father—s struggles and triumphs. And we repeatedly
see Jim filtering his own determination through his motivation
to be a positive model for his son.
Of course St. Rita—s intercession is efficacious, then
and now. She blesses this town once more. Her assist with
an impossible dream is not for Jim alone, but through him
for the whole community that helped motivate him and that
shares in his success.
The themes of the movie are neatly summed up by director
John Lee Hancock after Jim—s glorious moment of pitching
successfully in his first major league game. He reconciles
with his father after many years. He—s embraced by his wife,
who had doubted the wisdom of his choice, and by his children
who look up to him. And when he exits the stadium, the whole
town of Big Lake is there to greet him.
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
Maria Goretti (1890-1902)
Maria Goretti never went to school, never learned to read
or write. But she certainly learned how to forgive. One
of the last acts of her life was to pardon the young man
who tried to rape her.
Maria was only 12 when she died. In those dozen years she
saw firsthand many of the challenges life can bring. There
was the early death of her father, the struggle of her mother
to keep the family farm afloat, Maria—s ongoing responsibilities
to care for her young siblings and tend to household chores
as well. But she found the time to nourish her faith life
as well. After special preparations she received her First
Communion only two months before her death.
It was a hot July day when Maria saw Alessandro Serenelli,
18, climb the stairs of her house and approach her. Twice
before he had made sexual advances and she had rebuffed
him. On this day he was more insistent. He attempted to
rape her, but Maria resisted him. Infuriated, the young
man began striking at her with a dagger. He stabbed her
14 times, but she was able to flee.
Maria was rushed to a hospital and died 24 hours later.
Meanwhile, Alessandro was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Unrepentant for many years, he experienced a conversion
following a dream in which Maria appeared to him and offered
him lilies. He begged the family—s forgiveness. Upon his
release from prison, he visited Maria—s mother to personally
ask for her pardon.
Maria was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1950. One quarter
million people were present. Among them was an elderly man
who was weeping. His name was Alessandro Serenelli.
St. Maria Goretti—s feast day is July 6.
As a young girl, Heather Gallagher learned about sex and
the importance of chastity from her parents. She learned
about such things on an entirely different level years later,
when she went to college and lived in a sorority house and
then studied abroad.
What she saw in forceful and often painful ways was the
price—especially the emotional price—that young people pay
when they become sexually active before marriage. In their
search for love and respect, she found, they often experienced
despair and hopelessness instead.
—God calls us to chastity—not to take something away but
to give us the most,— Heather told Every Day Catholic.
That is the message she delivers regularly in her role as
chastity educator for the Retreat, Evangelization and Prayer
Team (REAP) of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
She estimates that she has spoken to 15,000 teens through
retreats, parish programs and youth groups during her two
years as part of the REAP Team. —Chastity is respecting
sex so much you keep it in your marriage. If you want it
in your marriage, practice it now,— she advises her audiences.
At the conclusion of the team members— presentations the
girls and boys in the audience are invited to take chastity
commitment cards home. Heather, 26 and single, encourages
the young people to —pray about what they have heard.— Though
there is no formal feedback process, she stays in touch
with many of them by e-mail. Some have told her that she
has —turned their lives around— and helped them see —what
God—s plan is— for them.
Heather is there to —plant the seed.— From there on, she
trusts —that God will be present with them.—
The following material
is available at www.AmericanCatholic.org:
of the Beatitudes," St. Anthony Messenger, March 2002
Forgotten Art of Blessing," St. Anthony Messenger, October
products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan
from the School of Suffering: A Young Priest With Cancer
Teaches Us How to Live" (book)
Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount" (book) "Breaking
Open the Gospel of Matthew: The Sermon on the Mount" (book)
on the Mount" (audiocassette)
Beatitudes: Finding Where Your Treasure Is" (Catholic Update)